NATURE KNOWLEDGE: Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

This is a Gray Catbird. It has a harsh voice tone like the crying of a cat.

It is said that they are very shy but I accidentally discovered their weakness. They just love oranges! ( Notice the orange reflection on their chests in my photos? That is the orange treat that is out of the frame. It is not their natural color which is all gray.)

These photos are from my archives. My magical fence no longer is producing lovely captures since my neighbors cut down a tree beside it.

A few years ago, I placed oranges out to draw Baltimore Orioles. Well, I was successful in two ways. I did get orioles but I also found catbirds.

I developed quite an affection for these rather plain birds. They were very comical and pushy. I like a bird who knows what she wants.

I grabbed a few facts from the Cornell Ornithology Lab:

Cool Facts

  • The Gray Catbird’s long song may last for up to 10 minutes.
  • The male Gray Catbird uses his loud song to proclaim his territory. He uses a softer version of the song when near the nest or when a bird intrudes on his territory. The female may sing the quiet song back to the male.
  • The Gray Catbird belongs to the genus Dumetella, which means “small thicket.” And that’s exactly where you should go look for this little skulker.
  • The oldest known Gray Catbird lived to be 17 years 11 months old.
The Catbird is a relative of Mockingbirds and quite the vocal copycat too. They are about the same size as American Robins. They have a lovely flash of copper color beneath their tails. It is often hard to spot.
Upon reading about their behavior, I did see that they enjoy berries and fruit when they can get it but primarily eat insects. What a find my oranges topped with grape jelly must have been!
So next time you think a cat is in trouble in the thicket…it probably is a Gray Catbird pushing its weight around.

Northern Cardinals in Western Massachusetts

This winter has been very mild here in Massachusetts. No snow on the ground. Our only measurable snow came in late October. Mild temps have kept this area in a perpetual early spring like pattern.

I love watching birds and have noticed patterns of their appearances, in my backyard, over many years. January 25th has been the day when I started hearing, what I call, the Northern Cardinal Spring Song for the last 3 winters. It was so very predictable that I felt as though I had stumbled upon a Natural timing that most were unaware of. This year,I have yet to hear it.

It is February 7th, 2012. Other birds are singing but the predictors of the approaching of Spring, are silent.

I have 2 theories about this unusual event.

1. It may just be that food sources are so easily found this year that the cardinals are more wide-spread. My own bird feeder has needed few refills. I have therefore spotted fewer cardinals stopping for my ready meal.

2. The weather somehow has had a confusing effect on the timing of the Northern Cardinal’s courting. They may well know that winter is on its way with a vengeance.

Whatever the reason, I have enjoyed the balmy weather, this year, but have felt a bit lonesome for the Northern Cardinals serenades the past few weeks. They will sound all the sweeter when they do.

PS. After searching for the best video to add to this post, I learned how diverse the cardinal songs can be. Wow! I know ours by heart and feel privileged to know my local avian friends on that level.

I finally heard their song on Feb.13th,2012